By John Schweibacher
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The New Jersey Devils did not get off to the start they wanted in 2014, as they slipped back below the .500 mark with losses to the team with the best record in the NHL — the Chicago Blackhawks — and the club with the worst NHL mark, the Buffalo Sabres.

Former Devil Matt D’Agostini scored his first goal for the Sabres and it turned out to be the game-winner in Buffalo’s 2-1 victory over New Jersey Saturday night.

Despite having just one goal, D’Agostini does not currently rank too far behind his fellow ex-Devils from last season in goals, especially among those who remained in the NHL. Here is how the former Devils from 2012-13 rank in goal-scoring in 2013-14 (through games of 1/4/14):

· Ilya Kovalchuk: St. Petersburg-KHL, 13

· Matt Anderson: Moscow-KHL, 11

· Alexei Ponikarovsky: St. Petersburg-KHL, 5

· David Clarkson: Toronto-NHL, 3

· Henrik Tallinder: Buffalo-NHL, 2

· Matt D’Agostini: Buffalo-NHL, 1

· Alexander Urbom: Washington-NHL, 1

· Krys Barch: Florida-NHL, 0

Cory Schneider made 20 saves against the Sabres, but took the loss in goal and fell to 5-9-5 on the season. The Devils have scored one goal or less in nine of Schneider’s 19 starts this season (1-7-1).

Schneider has a goals against average of 2.13, the 12th-best in the NHL among goaltenders who have appeared in at least 10 games as of Saturday.

The last time a goaltender played at least as many games as Schneider has this season and finished with a GAA of at least 2.13 or better while posting a losing won/loss record was back in 2001-02, when J.S. Giguere went 20-25-4 with a 2.13 goals against average for Anaheim. The only other goalie to post similar numbers in the expansion era was Jose Theodore, who went 12-13-5 with a GAA of 2.10 for Montreal in 1999-00.

New Jersey lost in regulation at home to Chicago last Friday night. It was the first time since December 30, 1997, a 6-2 loss at the Meadowlands, that the Devils came away without a point on home ice vs. the Blackhawks, ending a stretch of nine games (8-0-1).

Patrick Sharp recorded the hat trick to lead Chicago to that 5-3 win at New Jersey last Friday. Sharp became just the third player to have at least three goals in a game for the Blackhawks against the Devils.

Denis Savard had the hat trick in a 5-3 Blackhawks win at Chicago Stadium back on November 23, 1986. Steve Thomas had a four-goal game against New Jersey in a 6-3 Blackhawks win over the Devils in Chicago on March 22, 1990.

Sharp became just the seventh Blackhawks player to score at least two goals in a game against the Devils at New Jersey:

· 1/3/14: Chi 5 at NJ 3, Patrick Sharp (3)

· 12/30/97: Chi 6 at NJ 2, Eric Daze (2)

· 1/16/91: Chi 2 at NJ 2, Michel Goulet (2)

· 3/7/87: Chi 4 at NJ 3, Doug Wilson (2)

· 10/24/85: Chi 6 at NJ 4, T. Murray (2) & D. Savard (2)

· 11/6/83: Chi 6 at NJ 3, Denis Savard (2)

Andy Greene scored his seventh goal of the season in the Devils’ loss to Chicago, setting a new career-high. Greene scored six goals in 2008-09 and had nine goals in the previous three seasons combined.

Greene was not selected to be a member of Team USA for next month’s Winter Olympic Games, having not been among the 18 defensemen invited to the team’s orientation camp last summer.

Here is how Greene ranks in scoring among American-born defensemen in 2013-14 (through games of 1/4/14):

· Dustin Byfuglien*, Wpg 9g-23a: 32pts

· Kevin Shattenkirk, Stl 6g-25a: 31pts

· Ryan Suter, Min 5g-24a: 29pts

· Keith Yandle*, Phx 6g-22a: 28pts

· Cam Fowler, Ana 4g-22a: 26pts

· Ryan McDonagh, NYR 7g-18a: 25pts

· Torey Krug, Bos 10g-13a: 23pts

· Andy Greene*, NJD 7g-14a: 21pts

· James Wisniewski*, Cbj 2g-19a: 21pts

(*=not selected for Team USA)

Adam Henrique closed out 2013 with a goal in each of New Jersey’s last three games, after recording only one goal in his previous 23. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Henrique’s three-game goal-scoring streak matched his career high, done three times before (twice as a rookie in 2011-12 and once last season).

Henrique is only the second Devils player to score goals in each of three consecutive games this season, joining Jaromir Jagr, who scored in three straight games from November 16 through November 21.

Schwei’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: Ryding High — Michael Ryder scored his 13th goal of the season in the loss to Buffalo to tie Jagr for the team-lead. Ryder now has eight goals in 16 games since the start of December.

Minus: Gelinas Down — A roster crunch and a drop-off in play led to the rookie defenseman being sent down to Albany. Gelinas had just one assist and was a minus-4 in his last seven games.

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